Willow Point school urges City of Campbell River to buy sensitive property

The PAC at École Willow Point wants to ensure its outdoor classroom is preserved

A group of École Willow Point parents are urging the city to purchase a sensitive piece of property behind the No.2 Fire Hall in Willow Point.

The wooded site has a fish-bearing stream running through it and lies within the riparian area of the Larwood Tributary of Willow Creek. With the slice of nature being in such close proximity to the school, École Willow Point students have been getting hands-on learning instruction, studying the forest ecosystems and visiting the property weekly since the fall.

Sophia Sauter, secretary of the École Willow Point Parent Advisory Council (PAC), said that parents on the council would like to see the City of Campbell River take ownership of the Larwood Road property in order to ensure its preservation.

“By maintaining this property as a city park, it would ensure our school ongoing access to the property and improve classes’ ability to continue to build connections with nature and teach children to take care and protect our environment,” Sauter said.

City council, at its May 23 meeting, referred the PAC’s request to its city staff to report back on the feasibility and potential impacts of purchasing the Larwood forested lands.

“I do think there is an opportunity here,” said Coun. Larry Samson, “although I think my thought on it here would be more as a partnership and we look at different ways, whether it be through Greenways Land Trust. There is a bald eagle nesting tree right behind the fire hall so I think there is some opportunities there with the creek, with the bald eagle nesting tree, and other organizations and groups within our community, to have this type of partnership.”

The École Willow Point PAC has discussed the property with Greenways already. Sauter said the Land Trust has said the property contains a “wide variety of native plants.” The stream on the property has pink, chum and coho salmon as well as other fish including trout and sticklebacks.

And that’s not all.

“There is also an eagle nest and green heron habitat within this special natural area,” Sauter said. “Mink, beaver and deer have all been spotted on the property. These green trail ways areas are vital to keeping our natural environment healthy as we grow the urban space.”

And, Sauter, added, having the school kids use the property as an outdoor classroom is a natural fit.

“Outdoor education is a large part of École Willow Point’s program,” Sauter said. “The new B.C. curriculum promotes place-based learning and this property is an excellent area for conducting studies and looking at the forest ecosystems.”

Sauter said the school was designated as a BC WILD school last September which means the school is active in building connections with nature and encouraging stewardship practices that lead to students becoming environmentally responsible citizens.

Sauter said the school achieved that status because it believes that outdoor education is important.

“Physical benefits include improved balance, physical stamina and gross motor skills, as well as a decreased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” Sauter said. “Cognitive benefits for children include improved focus, problem solving and multi-tasking skills, as well as improved critical thinking skills and creativity. Outdoor learning and play helps children to develop a positive sense of self, intrinsic motivation and respect for themselves, others and the environment.”

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